Bernal made his USL Championship debut in San Antonio FC's 3-2 win over RGVFC on September 5 / Photo courtesy SAFC
When 17-year-old Fabrizio Bernal made his USL Championship debut for San Antonio FC on September 5, he followed in the footsteps of teammates Jose Gallegos and Leo Torres as SAFC Pro Academy products to appear for the club’s Senior Team.
San Antonio FC’s propensity for giving its young players opportunities at the professional level is well-documented, but Bernal is also a sign of another promising trend - the growing number of local youth clubs that make up the SAFC Pro Academy’s youth network promoting players through the club’s system.
“Fabrizio is fully deserving of this opportunity and it’s a reward for the commitment he has shown to develop his potential over the course of the time here with SAFC,” said SAFC Pro Academy Director Nick Evans. “Fabrizio’s opportunity serves again as an indicator to our Pro Academy players that the head coach will give you opportunities if you earn them, and you’re committed to expressing your talent when given that chance in the professional environment.”
“Faby is performing the specific tasks required and is beginning to execute these tasks in our training environment,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “With task execution comes opportunities, which Faby has earned and deserved. Faby fits our club culture and has a very bright future.”
A native of El Paso, Texas, Bernal first moved to San Antonio at age nine and began competing with youth club SA United as a 13-year-old before joining the SAFC Pro Academy in 2019. His performance earned him the opportunity to train with the club’s Senior Team, which led to the chance to compete against professionals.
“I think the time in the Pro Academy helped shape me to be ready for the first team,” said Bernal after making his Championship debut. “It was a long process with a lot of great players and coaches. The opportunity presented itself and I just tried to make the best out of it.”
Bernal in action for San Antonio FC / Photo courtesy SAFC
The local player development pathway in San Antonio, built by SAFC and the clubs in its youth network and traversed by Bernal, shows the benefits of the methods promoted by the USL Academy platform. SAFC’s youth network allows the best local talent to join its ranks, without stepping on the toes of prominent youth clubs in the area.
This collaborative approach is a main point of emphasis for all clubs competing in the USL Academy League (set to launch in spring 2021), and it’s one that SAFC already exemplifies.
With the expanding footprint of clubs in the USL Championship, League One and League Two, pathways like the one in San Antonio could soon exist in more communities than ever. In Bernal’s hometown of El Paso, El Paso Locomotive FC is now providing opportunities for young players where before there was no local senior team to strive toward.
“Our club’s continued commitment to our Pro Academy program is a fabric of our club and our identity,” said Evans. “The pathway we have at SAFC for players is to provide opportunities when players are young in the professional environment so they can experience and learn from positive and experienced mentors around them. We will continue as an academy to provide a quality experience and push our players individually so they can contribute to Alen’s plans with the first team.”
To learn more about USL Academy, visit usl-academy.com/about or search #USLAcademy on Twitter.